AC installer arrested, charged with poisoning family with mercury after complaints

The owner of an HVAC business in New York was arrested and charged Thursday for allegedly poisoning a Queens family with mercury after they complained to him that the heating and cooling system he had installed wasn't working, according to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

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Police arrested Yuriy Kruk, 48, after homeowner Roman Pinkhasov's wife first discovered droplets of quicksilver or mercury on the floor of their home, and then, after further investigation, inside the home's air conditioning vents, the DEC said in a press release.

The family first hired Kruk to replace their heating and cooling system several years ago, but soon had problems with a second-floor unit. After Pinkhasov complained numerous times about the broken unit, Kruk eventually told him it could not be fixed and would need replacement. After Kruk replaced the unit in the summer of 2015, the Pinkasovs discovered the mercury in their Jamaica Estates home and called police

"Every New Yorker should feel secure about the people they hire to work in their homes," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "In this case, the victims were merely asking for a repair of their heating and air conditioning units, but instead found themselves fighting for their lives."

Pinkhasov, his wife and their son suffered from the effects of the mercury poisoning before discovering the quicksilver in their home. Symptoms of poisoning include headaches, fatigue and joint pain.

"The defendant in this case is accused of attempting to poison a family with mercury after persistent complaints from the homeowners about the malfunctioning air conditioning unit," Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement.

"The defendant allegedly had a final fix for the complainers and is alleged to have placed poisonous mercury in the new AC. Exposure to the element could prove fatal over time and did make the residents sick," Brown said.

Kruk was charged with attempted assault, endangering public health and other charges and was arraigned Thursday on a six-count indictment.

He faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted of the charges.

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